Guitarist Dave Stryker met the legendary saxophonist Stanley Turrentine back in 1986 and has toured with him for over a decade and recorded with him twice. I vividly remember the day Stanley died, driving in my rental car from San Francisco to Monterey to visit the Monterey Jazz Festival when the news came on the radio. The one-of-a-kind saxophonist with the firm roots in Blues and R&B recorded dozens of classic albums, from his golden years at Blue Note in the 60s through the soulful period at Creed Taylor‘s CTI Records and Fantasy all the way back to Blue Note Records and Concord in his last years.
Now Dave Stryker has assembled ten of the best saxophonists around to celebrate the music of Mister T with tracks that were on most of the set lists from his touring years. The one tenor player which always came closest to Stanley’s playing is probably Houston Person. Also having his blues and R&B chops ready at all times, he opens this entertaining set with “LA Place Street”, from the 1989 Blue Note album “LA Place”. It’s a shuffling groover which also was the last song that Stanley ever played, according to Dave in the liner notes: he concluded his set at the Blue Note on September 9th, 2000 with this particular track and died three days later after suffering a massive stroke.
Mike Lee comes in on “Pieces Of Dreams” from the album of the same name from 1974, a Michel Legrand composition which had been arranged by Gene Page for the original album. Here, Dave plays some exquisite guitar solo with Jared Gold from his organ trio coming in with a fine solo as well. “Don’t Mess With Mister T”, the Marvin Gaye composition that Gaye wrote for the “Trouble Man” soundtrack, soon became a Turrentine signature song and here, Don Braden takes over the role with impressive lines and a pretty soulful approach.
88 year old Jimmy Heath is the guest on Duke Ellington‘s “In A Sentimental Mood” which opens with a sensual guitar chord before the meister sets in – still powerful, adept, and with a lot to say. The rapport with guitar and organ here is a delight to listen to. Things change drastically with the John Coltrane piece “Impressions” which was a popular Turrentine tune in his concerts and which he recorded for the 1971 album “Sugar”. And there is no better player for this fast and furious song than Chris Potter who works his way through this burner with devoted aplomb. Dave also plays some mean guitar on this one.
The other tune from the “Sugar” album, the title track, one of the most popular T compositions, is played here by the immensely energetic Javon Jackson who I think should have been given more space. Jared’s organ is burning on this one as well. “Gibraltar”, from Turrentine’s second CTI LP in 1971 and composed by Freddie Hubbard, gets the funky treatment here by Bob Mintzer and the Milton Nascimento written “Salt Song”, the title track of said album, is brilliantly played by Eric Alexander who stretches out from mellifluous lines to shouting cascades. Percussionist Mayra Casales takes over the role of Airto Moreira, giving incessantly striking support.
“Side Steppin'”, a Stryker original which first appeared on the 1995 Turrentine album “T Time”, features Dave’s colleague Steve Slagle who plays some more soulful and funky parts here. This track also reminds you of the exceptional compositional skills of the leader. This particular piece could have been cut during those famous Blue Note years in the 60s as well.
The youngest tenor on this set is Tivon Pennicott (a Thelonious Monk Competition finalist in 2013) who plays on the album closer “Let It Go”, another T composition which is the title track from his 1966 Impulse album and featured the great Shirley Scott on organ who was Stanley’s wife at the time. Tivon plays a solid, imaginative and well-versed sax here (as does drummer McClenty Hunter throughout the set) with his own distinctive sound. A rousing finale to a great album which reminds us how much Mister T is missing on the scene.